Kelly the Culinarian: One Day in Memphis

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

One Day in Memphis

I like to travel, a lot. So if given an open weekend, I make a plan and make it happen. The weekend after Thanksgiving was full of absolutely nothing, so I picked a dot on the map and decided to see what Memphis had to offer. It's an eight-hour drive and gas is currently $1.85 a gallon, so off I went. I rented an adorable AirBnb studio that had all the amenities of my grad school apartment with more square footage than my single dorm sophomore year. It was perfect.

But before I could make my way south, I took a detour in St. Louis to visit the Schlafly Taphouse. Co-founder Dan Kopman set me up with a tour (we met at BeerHQ in September) and it was awesome. One of the brewers showed us around the facilities, highlighting how the beer is made, where the beer for the taproom was stored, and how the age their beer in barrels. We also go to taste beer straight out of the barrels, which was really cool. The facility there is awesome - it's two separate buildings erected in 1902 and 1903 connected by an underground tunnel, and later, through renovation of the facility to make room for the taphouse. The restaurant is delicious too. Try the poutine!

After that brief detour and another four-hour drive, I was in Memphis and hungry once again. Upon my host's recommendation, I went to Central BBQ for dinner right before they closed. These ribs are life changing. They were amazingly seasoned, incredibly tender and absolutely bursting with flavor, all sans sauce. The banana pudding was also out of this world. Our order taker told us the secret is pecan Sandy cookies as the crumble instead of your standard Nilla wafer.

So for my single day in Memphis, I started early with a short run through Overton Park, which loops around the Memphis Zoo and the Brooks Museum, which I would have loved to visit if the weather was better and I had more time, respectively. After showering, I was off to see the ducks get into the fountain at The Peabody. This is a must-see, in my opinion. There's quite a bit of fanfare and kids can sit directly on the carpet the ducks walk from the elevator to the fountain. It's hilarious and it's free.

While waiting for my lunch location to open, I took a stroll down Beale Street, visiting the famed A. Schwabe Trading Co. Really cool store/museum that's worth a look. Another worth-a-gander location is the Hard Rock Memphis, which has a really cool collection of rock memorabilia, including Elvis's cape and the jacket from his Jailhouse Rock movie. Again, it's free to look.

For lunch I stopped at De Javu, a creole and vegetarian place. I tried the Big Easy Pasta, which was awesome, along with a side of gumbo. The dessert was the stand out - bananas foster cheesecake. The cheesecake was much lighter than what I was used to and it basically melted in your mouth. Yum.

One of the very few things I paid for in Memphis was the Gibson Factory Tour, which was $10. I have zero photos from the experience, because they're not allowed, and because it wasn't all that memorable. No one was working Sunday, and our tour guide clearly didn't want to be there either. I was super excited for the tour and it just fell flat. I would have been better off sitting in the gift shop listening to the workers and tourists play on the fancy guitars.

I just happened to wander into The Flying Saucer right after that and spot 2015 Bourbon County freshly tapped for $7. Of course I had to try it at that price. It was a fun bar and a nice spot to grab a drink.

Then I was off for more adventure - I drove by the Lorraine  Motel where Martin Luther King Jr was killed, and then Graceland (I wouldn't do that one again). What was really cool was visiting The Pyramid, which was built in 1991 as a basketball venue and later abandoned because it wasn't up to regulation. After years of negotiation, Bass Pro Shop took it over and opened its doors early this year. In the first three months, they've had more than a million visitors. It has a hotel, archery and handgun ranges, a 600,000-gallon water feature, a restaurant, a hotel, a bowling alley and virtual shooting gallery. It's really cool and worth a (free) visit. The only thing that cost money there is to take America's biggest free-standing elevator 28 stories up to the lookout. I wish I would have allotted time enough to do this, but maybe next time. I had dinner at Gus's fried chicken, which lives up to the hype. It's amazingly delicious and crazy busy, too.

So there you have it - a whirlwind trip to Elvis's birthplace. And now, back to the grind.

No comments: